The Cutoff Man: Who killed Mr. Defending Champion?

In this game of Clue, there were two victims and hence, two culprits. On Friday, it was the Rangers who killed the Yankees in Arlington with clutch hits. On Saturday, the Giants slew the Phillies in Philadelphia with great pitching — and a clutch homer.

The World Series is on tap to start fresh this Wednesday, with one team making its first World Series appearance and another in only its fourth World Series in the past 50 years. The Texas Rangers have already outdone themselves twice this October, first by taking the Division Series from Tampa Bay to win their first ever postseason series and then again by David-and-Goliathing the Yankees to double their historical postseason series victory tally. The Giants, who beat the Braves in the Division Series, entered the National League Championship Series (NLCS) as giant underdogs as they faced a Phillies team that steamrolled through the last month of the season and swept the Reds in the Division Series in convincing fashion.

Although I had previously predicted a Rangers World Series championship ("What was the name of that movie?" from Oct. 11 [SLANT12][SLANT12]), the Yankees looked like the team to beat this postseason after sweeping the Twins in the Division Series with seemingly unstoppable pitching. In the American League Championship Series, though, New York ran into a Texas offense that would require much more effort to subdue, and it turned out that the Yankees pitchers didn’t have tranquilizers heavy enough to get the job done. The Rangers scored first in almost every game of the six-game series, and even when things got close, they found a way to claw back and put a pounding on Yankee relievers in the late innings. None of the Rangers’ victories ended up particularly close, as Texas outscored New York 15–1 from the sixth inning on in the Rangers’ four wins in the series. The pitching that had Yankees fans and haters confident that they’d get the job done after mowing down the punchless Twins more than met its match against a Texas offense that will surely give the Giants pitchers fits if they are the least bit off their game.

The Giants, on the other hand, continued to supply their fans with plenty of feel-good “torture,” as their style of baseball was deemed throughout the season. Their clinching 3–2 victory in Game 6 of the NLCS was the sixth one-run game they were involved in out of nine this postseason, and Giants fans may have had to start on their toenails after biting all 10 fingernails off by the time closer Brian Wilson struck out the Phillies’ Ryan Howard to win it. Torture won’t cut it against Texas, though, as even ace pitcher Tim Lincecum hasn’t been consistent enough this October to ensure that he will be able to quiet the Texas offense. After Saturday’s less-than-admirable performance, it’s doubtful that Jonathan Sanchez will remain the Giants’ No. 2 starter, and even with Matt Cain’s dominating performance in Game 3 of the NLCS, it’ll be a stretch for him to duplicate his success against a team that mashed Yankees pitching instead of the Phillies team that hit a collective .216 in the NLCS.

With hitters like Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, and a healthy Nelson Cruz and Vlad Guerrero to go with pitchers Cliff Lee, Colby Lewis, and Neftali Feliz, it’s hard not to finally pick these Rangers as the team to beat this October. The Giants will reprise their role as underdogs come Wednesday, but after grinding out a plethora of wins that proved critics wrong this season, it’s impossible to predict what will happen once that first pitch opens up the Fall Classic. There’s only one thing we know for sure: There will be excitement and surprises in every game, with good, fundamental baseball being played on both ends and clutch plays aplenty.

Make sure you’re tuned into FOX Wednesday night to watch it all unfold; besides, there’s nothing else good on Wednesday night TV anyway.